Alleyn Park Garden Centre

June Newsletter 2019

How lovely to be writing this having had a week of warm sunny weather in which to enjoy our gardens and open spaces …. let’s hope it continues.

Firstly, I would like to address the rumours regarding our proposed move to the site known as Half Moon Studios, on the corner of South Croxted Road and Park Hall Road.

Firstly, if this project goes ahead, the building will not be 'demolished' as I’ve seen stated on a forum. I can only imagine that there has been a misunderstanding here. There are 2 horrible concrete garages at the back of the site which would be demolished. The beautiful building itself would be repaired and renovated; Dulwich Estate, working in conjunction with myself and an architect, plan to restore it, allowing it to become a revitalised centrepiece in West Dulwich. The building is falling into severe disrepair, and without plans to reinvent its use it may well have continued to deteriorate.

The land surrounding the building, which is currently a jungle of brambles, weeds and overgrown trees, will be cleared and sensitively landscaped for our use. As you know, we are currently out of sight down an unimpressive driveway, remaining unknown to a depressingly large number of people who visit or live in the area, so we will be absolutely delighted if the project goes ahead, giving us a more prominent position within the community.

It is impossible to tell from the road, but the new site would offer us almost the same amount of external space as we currently have, and an increased amount of indoor space.

There are plans afoot to improve the parking situation throughout West Dulwich, thus ensuring no detrimental effect to the local area.

We are very excited about our potential move and believe that the proposed changes to both our existing site and potential new site will be beneficial to West Dulwich.

I understand that the Estate will be holding a public consultation in the near future to allow local residents and businesses to see and discuss the proposed plans on both sites.

At this stage, we can’t give any more information, but look forward to sharing plans as and when they develop.

So, onto the important business of gardening …..

Many of you will have visited or watched TV coverage of the Chelsea Flower show and may be inspired to ring the changes in your own garden having seen new plant combinations and garden layouts. You don’t need to bring the heavy machinery in and completely revamp to make an impact: it’s amazing how a few small alterations can transform a space, or provide a point of focus. Adding a new pop of colour; subtly changing the shape of a border (making it bigger, of course); thinning or trimming back shrubs and trees that have become overbearing or are blocking sunlight; adding more of the same to create swathes of planting. These simple, inexpensive alterations can make a big difference.

I can’t begin to tell you about the incredible variety of plants, shrubs, trees and edibles we’ve got in stock now - you’ll just have to come along and see for yourself. But a few current stars are:

Roses – June is the month for them, and the range continues to cover all the bases; shrub, climbers and ramblers are all bursting with vigour and flower.

Acers – I have to mention them again this month, as they are looking so splendid. There’s an informative piece on our website on how to care for Acers Caring for Acers (or you can pick up a hard copy at the till).

Hydrangeas – The paniculata are budding up nicely and the macrophylla are bursting into flower, in a wide range of colours. These are wonderful additions to your border no matter which type you go for.

Cornus kousa – The flowers are out and looking spectacular. The shrubs won’t be here long, so come by soon if you’ve always hankered after one (I know I have!)

Tree ferns – These magnificent ancient trees are native to New Zealand and Australia and we have a large number arriving towards the end of the month. These are sustainably sourced from Australia and have all the appropriate paperwork, essential when importing plants in this way. In an urban garden setting tree ferns add a layer of lush vegetation, creating a tropical feel. They are very easy to keep, and are absolutely fantastic kept in a pot, be it stand-alone or in a border (mine is in a pot, in a bed, with low planting of hostas beneath.) As their fronds unfurl they resemble some exquisite alien life form, and then once fully extended their presence evokes a sense of virgin rainforest, untouched by pollution or man. Both Valerie and I are lucky enough to have seen them in their natural habitat – Valerie in New Zealand, me in Australia. We agree that there was something almost spiritual about the experience which brought tears to the eyes.

Plenty of vegetables, tomatoes, herbs, soft fruit and fruit trees are in stock, along with an increasingly wide range of herbaceous perennials, shrubs and ornamental trees. Far too many to mention.

As you’ll remember, a couple of months ago I talked about the fact that we are moving towards only stocking peat-free compost. We are trialling a new supplier, Melcourt, to increase our range of peat-free and organic composts. There was an excellent article in the Telegraph on the subject a few days ago which is worth reading: Peat Free Compost (If you get either Rob or David started on the subject, you may find yourself trapped for a while, as they are clearly delighted with the quality of the range.)

We’ve just taken delivery of bags of crushed whelk shells. Yes, you read that correctly! I was intrigued and enchanted when approached by a small, family-run business based in Wales which processes sustainably sourced whelks for the food industry. The family themselves used the by-product of the shells to mulch their own gardens, and noticed that not only do they look great as a top-dressing, act as a weed suppressant and help hold moisture in the soil, they also deter slugs and snails, who hate sliding over the sharp shell edges. Thus, a secondary business was born, selling the crushed shells for gardeners’ use, under the brilliant name ‘Shell on Earth’. We are the first stockist in London, but I’m sure we won’t be the last as this is a really impressive product, with a great backstory.

Have you seen the range of Niwaki tools we now have in stock? These incredibly sharp Japanese tools are creating quite a stir … once you’ve tried them you’ll never look back. The Hori Hori in particular is a runaway best seller, as it is a truly brilliant multi tool.

Martyna continues to keep the shed filled with fabulous house plants, funky indoor pots, terrariums and all the associated sundries, including specialist feeds and composts. Currently we have a huge Fatsia Lyrata (Fiddle Leaf Fig) as well as a huge Rubber plant taking up space – but not for long, I imagine.

In the main shop, we’ve just stocked up on Chilly’s bottles. These beautifully designed ergonomic bottles keep water and drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for up to 12 hours. In a range of wonderful colours and patterns they are an absolute treat. We also have the smaller sized bottles again … great for popping in a handbag, or for small hands.

The glorious starburst solar lights continue to delight (I’ve got 4 in my garden now!), and we’ve also taken delivery of some simple string outdoor fairy lights.

Our range of faux flowers continues to sell well. One customer brought me in a photo of a vase on her mantelpiece filled with a mix of real and faux flowers. It looked absolutely stunning, and you honestly can’t tell which is which!

Of course the warmer weather means more time spent outside in the evenings, so it’s time to stock up on charcoal and wood ready for that impromptu gathering. What? You still don’t have a Kadai fire pit?? What are you waiting for? They are simply the best (and most aesthetically pleasing) way to barbeque and/or enjoy fire in the garden.

Sally’s ‘garden jobs’ for the month follows, and we all very much hope to see you at the garden centre soon.

With warm wishes


PS Look out for an email this week informing you of how much you’ve earned in reward vouchers ☺

Garden jobs

June is a lovely month with so much coming into flower, beautifully scented flowering shrubs, roses of all colours and beds and borders seemingly growing overnight. Here are some ideas to get you working outside, as well as reminding you to stop and let your senses absorb this glorious time of year.

General garden maintenance

  • The basic garden jobs of feed, weed, stake and water carried out regularly will keep the garden looking good.
  • Treat the garden to a good fertiliser and your plants will perform much better.
  • Keep on top of weeds in borders, containers and in paving. Annual weeds can be pulled out or hoed while they are small and left to wither on top of the soil. Perennial weeds should be removed completely with nothing left of the root. Alternatively use a chemical gel or spray to treat invasive weeds such as bindweed and ground elder, being careful to avoid drift onto garden plants.
  • It's not too late to stake tall herbaceous plants - do it now before taller plants like delphiniums, lilies, and peonies lean too far with the weight of their blooms, especially after heavy rainfall.
  • Early flowering perennials such as Geranium phaeum, Brunnera, Tellima, Pulmonaria and others can be cut hard to the ground when the flowers have faded - new leaves will be generated. Water well afterwards.
  • Deadheading - most plants will continue to flower if you regularly remove faded blooms, stopping the plant from setting seed. Cut fading flowers either to a pair of buds, or back to the main stem, depending on the plant in question.
  • Carry on tying in climbers as new shoots grow on plants such as honeysuckle and clematis. Use Soft-Tie or string to tie onto trellis or wires.
  • As soon as your sweet peas start to flower, keep picking them to encourage continued flowering for weeks and months.
  • Remove blanket weed from ponds to allow plants and fish to breathe. Leave the debris on the side of the pond to allow wildlife to return to the water before putting it on the compost heap.

Container gardening

  • Plant up containers to bring a hot zingy splash of colour or a calming pastel display to your balcony, terrace or patio. There are many annuals to choose from. Use a combination of upright and trailing plants to give a pleasing display: geranium, petunia, calibrachoa, verbena, isotoma, ageratum, lobelia, osteospermum, begonia - it’s hard to narrow down the selection! Water, feed and deadhead containers of bedding on a regular basis to keep them looking good for months.
  • Alternatively, put some more thought and planning into a group of perennial plants for a big container which will come up year after year. Choose from plants which will thrive in shade for a tricky corner, or sun-lovers for a pot in a hot spot.
  • Agapanthus is an excellent container plant as they like to have their roots contained. I’ve had some in a container for about 5 years and the number of flowers increases each year.
  • Fruit, vegetables and herbs can all be grown in containers - there are lots of edibles to try such as patio fruit trees, blueberries or strawberries, tomatoes, aubergines, peas, beans or salad leaves which you can try. Almost any herb can be grown in a container. It’s well worth the effort - keep them watered and enjoy the fresh harvest.


  • Trim topiary, to keep it looking smart and to maintain the shape. Choose a cloudy day so that the leaves don't go brown with leaf scorch, and remember to feed and water afterwards.
  • Prune late winter and spring flowering shrubs such as flowering currants and forsythia. Cut a few stems down to ground level, and the remaining to a healthy new shoot. Next year's flowers will develop on the new growth.
  • Cut out stems of variegated plants such as Euonymus and Elaeagnus which have reverted to plain green.
  • Prune out overcrowded or dead stems of evergreen Clematis (such as Clematis armandii) once flowers have finished in order to maintain a good shape.


  • Plant a tree which will be good for the environment, good for the future and a wonderful addition to the garden. Trees support a huge range of wildlife, provide shade and privacy and can be a wonderful focal point in your garden.
  • Keep planting annuals and perennials to brighten the garden. Are there gaps where spring flowers and bulbs have finished? Try planting some quick space fillers like Cosmos, Hollyhock, Lupin, Foxglove, Delphinium - there are many options for sun or shade.
  • Shrubs and herbaceous perennials can be planted now either for immediate impact or to get established to look forward to later in the year. Planted well, they will settle in happily.
  • Is there a gap on a wall or fence where you could pop in a climber? Or a dull looking tree or shrub which could act as a support as well as being brightened up? Clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine and climbing roses are perfect perennial climbers which will perform for years. Or try an exotic annual climber such as Ipomoea purpurea (Morning Glory) which is a lovely plant with heart shaped leaves and richly coloured trumpet shaped flowers which open in the morning and close in the afternoon and will flower from early summer to autumn. Like Rhodochiton, Thunbergia and Sweet Peas, Morning Glory will put on a lot of growth very quickly so give it a wall or bamboo wigwam to climb up.
  • There are lots of seeds which can still be sown - sunflowers, nigella, nasturtiums, calendula - why not have a go! Read the instructions on the pack, and see what comes up.

Watering and feeding

  • Watering - be aware of the plants which need more water, including those recently planted, young vegetables and plants in containers. If we experience drought conditions, remember that it's better to really soak plants a couple of times a week than to sprinkle a little water each day. Always make sure water soaks right down to the deeper roots.
  • All new compost has sufficient nutrients to feed plants for up to 6 weeks, but thereafter you should get into a routine of feeding when you water. This is especially important for plants in containers, which can't send their roots further into the soil.

Fruit and vegetables

  • Tomatoes are always a favourite and rewarding edible to grow - the flavour can be so much better than supermarket offerings. Even if you only have a small outside space, as long as it gets 6 hours of sun each day, it’s worth trying a few plants. Plant young plants into their final pot when the first flowers appear. If growing a cordon variety such as Alicante, Sun baby or Gardeners Delight, you should be ready to tie it onto a cane and remove all side shoots maintaining one main stem from which the fruit trusses will develop. Bush and tumbling tomatoes such as the Balconi variety, Tumbling Tom Red (and Yellow) do not need their side shoots removing - each stem ends in a fruit truss. Once the first truss of tomatoes has formed, start feeding with a tomato feed.
  • Harvest salad leaves and resow every 2 weeks for a constant supply.
  • Avoid using insecticides on crops when they are in flower.
  • Water potatoes well if the weather is dry. Early potatoes should be ready to harvest soon. Look out for the first flowers, and once they have opened, there should be a crop ready under the soil.
  • Runner beans and climbing French beans can be sown or planted outside, as well as squash, courgettes and sweet corn. Leeks should be planted out when they are pencil thick. Radish, Swiss chard, salad crops, peas, beans, courgettes - now’s the time to sow lots directly outside.
  • If planting sweetcorn, sow/plant in a block, setting sweetcorn plants 35cm apart with 60cm between rows. This arrangement helps this wind pollinated crop.
  • Blueberries growing in pots need to be kept moist at all times, preferably with collected rainwater.
  • Tie in raspberry and blackberry canes.
  • Start to prune plum and cherry trees.
  • Watch out for the June drop which is the process of fruit trees naturally shedding surplus amounts of fruit. You should remove any damaged or misshapen fruit and, if there is a lot of fruit remaining after the natural fall, remove some more by hand. What's left will be better quality and the tree will have more energy to put into the remaining fruit.


  • Herbs are a fabulous group of plants, looking and tasting good when added to cooking and cocktails.
  • Try to give herbs the conditions they require. A sunny spot suits Mediterranean type herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage and lavender; green leafy herbs such as mint, parsley, and coriander will be happy in semi shade.
  • When harvesting herbs, the general rule is to cut a sprig or stem and then strip the leaves off to use. The plant will reshoot from where it's been cut, and keep producing fresh growth. If you simply strip leaves off the plant, the stems will go brown and die off, resulting in an unsightly plant.
  • Some herbs such as coriander, basil, rocket and parsley can be grown from seed in successive sowings, ensuring that as one crop goes to seed, the next is supplying fresh green foliage.
  • Cutting some herbs such as mint, rocket, coriander to the ground will prompt fresh growth to extend the harvesting season.
  • Remember too that herb flowers encourage beneficial insects into the garden. The flowers are normally edible, and can add lovely colour and flavour to salads.


  • Mow the lawn at least once, and preferably twice, a week at this time of year. The less grass removed at each cut, the healthier the grass will be. If we hit a dry spell, reduce the frequency of cutting and raise the mowing height.
  • Recently laid or sown lawns should be watered regularly in dry periods.

Pests and diseases

  • Mildew affects many ornamental and edible plants. It is identified as white powdery spreading patches of fungus on both sides of the leaf, flowers and fruit. There are different species of mildew which have quite narrow host ranges, thus the species which affects apples is different to the one affecting peas. Remove and dispose of all affected leaves and stems as soon as possible. Mulching and watering will reduce water stress and make plants less susceptible to infection, as will improving air circulation around the plant. If necessary, treat with an appropriate fungicide.
  • Protect vulnerable plants from slugs and snails Dawn and dusk outings wearing gloves and carrying a bucket, and then dousing the collected molluscs with salt, can reduce the populations dramatically. Slug pellets or bait should be used very sparingly - follow the instructions on the pack. Using mulch such as Strulch, or the crushed whelk shells Karen mentioned earlier, will deter slugs and snails. Beer traps can be very effective too, but you need to empty them daily.
  • Keep an eye out for aphid infestations, often on the underside of leaves - it's much easier to control if caught early. Squish them, or use an insecticide. Always use sprays carefully, in the evening when fewer beneficial insects are active, and choose a time when there isn't a breeze. Be particularly careful to protect bees - they are essential to our planet’s survival.
  • Bright red lily beetle and bronze/green striped rosemary beetle can do a lot of damage in a short space of time, so keep an eye out for them. Provanto is the only pesticide recommended by the RHS as effective against these bugs. Read the instructions before using on edible crops. Or just pick them off and squish them.
  • See our notes on Pest Control for help with other problems.


  • Birds need constant supplies of food and water as they raise their young, so keep feeders and bird baths topped up.
  • Give bird baths a regular scrub to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Don't trim hedges or prune shrubs unless you are sure any bird nests within are empty.
  • Vary the length of grass around the garden to encourage different groups of wildlife: birds will find insects if the grass is short, longer grass may allow bee friendly lawn weeds such as clover to flower.


Make sure you take the time to relax in your outside space as well as keeping on top of essential jobs in the garden. Let’s hope summer gets off to a good start this month, so that the open gardens and other outdoor events get a good turnout, and also allow us to enjoy being outdoors.